must find a way to convince Maggie
needed to make her big-city dreams a reality. But then Brawley Odell swaggers
back into Maverick Junction, looking hotter than ever in his dusty cowboy boots
and well-worn jeans. He’s the guy she still dreams of at night. The guy who
broke her heart when he left her behind.
vet’s practice—and get back to the smart, sassy woman he’s never been able
forget. He couldn’t be prouder of Maggie’s new wedding-dress business . . .
until he realizes it may mean losing her all over again. Determined to win her
back, Brawley must find a way to convince Maggie that their one true home is
with each other.
recovering middle school teacher, loves long rides with the top down and the
music cranked up, the Gulf of Mexico when a storm is brewing, chocolate frozen
custard, anything by Blake Shelton, Chris Young, and Thomas Rhett, and sitting
in her local coffee shop reading and enjoying an iced coffee. She and her
husband divide their time between Southwest Florida’s beaches and Georgia’s
Blue Ridge Mountains. Having grown up in a small town, that’s where her heart
takes her—to those quirky small towns where everybody knows everybody…and all
their business, for better or worse. Writing for Grand Central and Sourcebooks,
she’s published twelve novels and is at work on a new series.
“Do you know how to get to the rose garden?”
graces of a wealthy benefactor who is willing to give Shaw a job at his mansion
in order to pay off his mother’s debts. Suddenly finding himself surrounded by
lavish riches, he has no idea what his duties truly entail until he’s sent to
the rose garden and meets the tragically mutilated Isobel.
element of fantasy and dragging it into present day reality. Shaw and Isobel
are ready to let you climb into their four-wheel-drive pickup and take a ride
with them into their version of happily ever after, but only if you first dare
to gaze upon the monster among the roses.
Great. I was lost. Shading my hand over my eyes, I decided the far right should take me in the general direction I wanted to go. So I went that way, only to end up at the edge of the house, but not where I’d started, and not close enough to the rose garden to get me inside.
Strangely enough, however, a boy played outside, using sidewalk chalk to color a picture of…what the hell was he drawing? Maybe some kind of dying animal with blood gushing from its side and an arrow sticking out of its back.
It didn’t look right, whatever it was.
I shook my head and jerked my gaze from the disturbingly morbid sketch. “Hey, kid.”
The boy jumped and looked up, hopping to his feet and backing away from me as I were the scary one.
No idea who he was; he looked too young to be Mr. Nash’s son from the photos I’d seen, plus he had white blond hair, the complete opposite shade of the young man in all the pictures in Mr. Nash’s office. But he was here, so he’d have to do.
Wanting to appear as non-threatening as possible, I smile and waved. “Hey. Sorry for bothering you, but do you know how to get to the rose garden?”
That must’ve been the wrong question to ask. His face drained of color. “No,” he said, shaking his head. “You can’t go there.”
What? “Why not?”
“A monster lives in there. Half her face is melted off. She eats the thorns from the roses so she can spit them at people, stabbing them in the neck to slice their throat open until they bleed out and die.”
Somehow, I’d stumbled across one of the children of the corn. Nice.
Lifting my eyebrows, I drew my own step in reverse. Time to retreat. “Dude, that’s gruesome.”
Please don’t kill me. Please don’t kill me. Please don’t kill me.
He gave a serious nod. “It’s true. My mom’ll tell you she’s real too.”
“Oh yeah?” Relieved he wasn’t claiming he’d sprouted from Satan’s cabbage patch but actually had a mother, I glanced around for this wise, all-knowing parent of his. Maybe she could tell me how to get to the conservatory. “Who’s your mom?”
“The cook,” he said, puffing up his chest as if that were the most important title in the house. “She’s worked here for fifteen years. She knows everything about this place there is to know. So…don’t go into the roses. You won’t come out alive. Lewis, the groundskeeper, doesn’t even go in there.”
Aha! So this place did have a gardener. I knew it.
I took a second to ponder why I was being sent to garden then, when Mr. Nash already paid someone to maintain the place. But if Lewis refused to go into the roses, as the kid had said, maybe it was rumored to be haunted or something, and that was where I came in. Then again, why wouldn’t Mr. Nash just hire a new groundskeeper who wasn’t so scared and superstitious? Then I stopped pondering the whys. It wasn’t my place to question strange, rich people and their strange, oddball orders. I was just here to do what I was told and save my mom.
Nodding gravely to the boy, I said, “Thanks for the warning, kid. But I think I’ll take my chances. Which way?”
He looked at me as if he’d never see me again because I was headed forth to my death, then he lifted his hand and quietly pointed toward another opening in the path of bushes.
“Thanks.” I nodded and got out of there before some of his creepiness started rubbing off.
Fortunately, he’d steered me in the right direction. I landed right at the outdoor entrance into the glass gazebo. Propping the door open, I carted my supplies inside and then paused to breathe deeply.
But fuck me, it smelled good in here. You didn’t have to be a flower enthusiast for this garden to amaze you. It was like the holy shrine of roses. A hallowed kind of reverence filled my chest. Haunted or not, I liked it. It felt peaceful and yet revitalizing.
Suddenly intimidated because I didn’t want to mess anything up in such a perfect place, my hands shook as I flipped back to the pages about rose care. The more I skimmed, however, the more confused I became.
These roses didn’t need a lick of my attention. They were all in excellent condition as if someone already tended to them. Maybe creepy kid had been wrong, and Lewis the groundskeeper came in here hourly to care for them.
Still…What the hell?
I frowned and slid my finger along the silken petals of a blood red rose. Perfectly pruned, weeded, and watered. It was as flawless as a thing could get.
But I couldn’t go tell Mr. Nash they didn’t need anything, could I? What if he fired me for lack of work to do, or because he thought I was lazy and lying about the roses not needing care?
I looked around again, searching for anything to water, or clip, or re-soil. It was crazy how thriving every single flower looked.
Maybe this was some kind of test, and Mr. Nash wanted me to fail. What if he’d never intended for me to work for him and the contract I’d signed to save my mom was being burned in the fireplace in this office as I stood here like a dumbass with nothing to weed.
Confused and worried, and growing a little angry, I scowled at a wall full of pink vine roses growing to my right. But they were honestly too pretty to be glared at, so my mood settled.
I bet Mom would love them. She was a fan of pink. And flowers. Plus, these were the good-smelling kind. I’d be a good son if I brought home such a flower to her. And it seemed as if they grew in abundance, not as if they were one of the rare breeds Mr. Nash had spoken of. So I reached for a bloom to pluck it from the vine without even thinking beyond how much it’d make my mother smile.
Behind me, a voice growled, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
Jumping half out of my skin because I’d been certain no one had been in here with me, I whirled around only to gasp, “Shit!”
The creepy cook’s son hadn’t been lying.
In front of me stood an irate woman with half her face melted off.
Kansas with my husband, two daughters, nine cuckoo clocks, and a cat named
Holly. My life’s been blessed with lots of people to learn from and love.
Writing’s always been a major part my world, and I’m so happy to finally share
some of my stories with other romance lovers.
I’m a member of Romance Writers of America, and I’ve been through a writing
correspondence class in children’s literature from The Institute of Children’s
Literarture, and then I continued my writing lessons by majoring in English
with an emphasis in creative fiction writing from Pittsburg State
a dream life, complete with their beloved, precocious daughter. But owning and
running a restaurant is not for the faint of heart, and Elle quickly becomes
laser-focused and obsessed, while Ross spends his days consulting, or
concocting new beers on his pilot system—and wondering why she won’t agree to
set a date for their wedding. When their restaurant—named “Komfort” for its
focus on the comfort foods of various cultures—is featured on a nationally
televised tour of hot new eateries, its popularity shoots into the
stratosphere, and Elle’s stress level reaches a breaking point.
ill-considered ultimatum: the restaurant or him. Stunned when she refuses to
consider such a ridiculous demand, he’s forced to come to terms with his own
selfish tendencies. Hoping to repair the damage he’s done, he concocts a new
beer inspired by her, using a recipe for a classic German-style Kölch. He
crafts the final product using a special ingredient designed to catch Elle’s
attention. It does. But not necessarily the way he’d planned.
Ross’s and Elle’s complex personalities as they make their sexy way toward
happily ever after—with the help of a very special brew.
The job was a hell of a lot more than she’d bargained for—although to be fair, she had been warned by plenty of people familiar with its daily grind. The mornings were her favorite time here. The kitchen sparkling from the night’s cleaning, the tables bare, the chairs flipped over on top of them. The place still held a bit of mustiness from its many years sitting empty but they were overwhelming that with nearly three years’ worth of their own odors—drywall, paint, floor refinishing, which were all subsumed by the daily fact of food being prepared, served and eaten.
She and Ross had built this. It was theirs. And yet, now it was more ‘hers’ and a lot less ‘his’. She understood his need to get back to brewing and supported it but she missed his daily presence, supporting her, in ways she’d never thought she would.
She moved over to the secondhand couch, used by her and countless others for cat naps during down times, and closed her burning eyes, marveling at what a relief it was not to be looking at lists, recipes and spreadsheets.
Just for a minute. Just a quick rest.
She fell into a light sleep within seconds, dropping into an odd half dream-state, where she could still hear the prep staff talking, laughing, slamming things around. Music suffused her drifting brain, matching whatever had been dialed up on the streaming service behind her.
She felt Ross’ arms around her, cradling her, his lips at her ear, crooning to her in his country-boy German accent. As she relaxed in his embrace, he kissed her, sending a sharp spike of lust down her spine. Dream-Ross undressed her gently, stroking every inch of skin he exposed, following that with his lips, tongue and teeth. She shivered and reached for him, wanting more of him. Wanting all of him.
But now he was frowning at her, withdrawing. His mouth moved but she couldn’t hear his words. He was making that crazy-ass ultimatum again. They were fighting. Anger swirled around and between them, poisoning the pleasant eroticism of the moment before. It wasn’t as if they’d never fought. It was more like these arguments held an edge of real frustration as opposed to brief or imagined aggravation. She hated it. She hated herself for being so short, so tired all the time, so obsessed, as he liked to put it, by the damn restaurant.
“But it was your god damned idea, Hoffman,” she reminded him in her dream. “What do you think? I’d just open it and waltz away from the thing, letting it run itself?”
“No,” he said, his voice low, tight with unhappiness. “That’s not what I think.”
“Then what do you suggest? I mean, I’m sorry if you’re feeling neglected. But I can’t take my eyes off this. I can’t. You understood, once upon a time, but all of a sudden you’re being a total child about it.”
Dream-Ross reached for her, tugged her close, their naked skin warm as they wrapped themselves around each other and fell into their bed. “I want to get married, Elisa,” he demanded when she straddled his hips and eased herself down his long, thick shaft with a sigh. “I want that one simple thing. Why won’t you give that to me?” His deep blue eyes were wide, his breathing shallow. She rolled her hips in silence, giving them the friction they both sought. “God damn it.” He yanked her down. The ropey strands of her dreadlocks curtained them when he jammed his tongue into her mouth, before rolling them so he was on top, the way he preferred to come, buried deep inside her.
She reached back and grasped the headboard, lifting her lower body up, wanting him deeper, groaning as she came in a glorious burst of energy at the same moment she felt him join her, releasing into her with a hoarse cry of pleasure. This was her man, her Ross, her life. It was all she wanted, nothing more. She opened her eyes and pressed her hand to the tight, red curls of his beard. “I love you,” she said in a whisper.
He frowned. “Then marry me. Today. Tomorrow. This weekend. I’m sick of waiting.” She opened her mouth to say “yes, anything you want. Just please never leave me.”
Someone was shaking her shoulder, yanking her out of the half-dream, half-memory. She hadn’t been able to say “yes” that night, either. She’d been so overwhelmed at the thought of planning a wedding she’d started crying, so he’d held her until they’d both fallen asleep, still skin-to-skin, sweaty and sticky. The next morning they’d had their first massive, ugly fight. And that had been, what, a month ago now? It felt like a million years, but also just yesterday.
expert, and soccer fan, Liz Crowe is a Kentucky native and graduate of the
University of Louisville currently living in Ann Arbor. She has decades of
experience in sales and fund raising, plus an eight-year stint as a
three-continent, ex-pat trailing spouse.
“Romance: Worth the Risk,” which has gained thousands of fans and followers
interested less in the “HEA” and more in the “WHA” (“What Happens After?”).
successful real estate offices and at times in exotic locales like Istanbul,
Turkey, her books are unique and told with a fresh voice. The Liz Crowe
backlist has something for any reader seeking complex storylines with humor and
complete casts of characters that will delight, frustrate and linger in the
imagination long after the book is finished.